Florida wildfires: Over 1,000 homes evacuated as wildfires rage in Panhandle

Crews are working to get several wildfires burning in Florida under control. Two of the biggest are still raging in the Panhandle. 

There are 168 fires burning across the state right now. The biggest of them all is the Bertha Swamp Road fire which has burned 12,000 acres and is 20-percent contained. That fire is burning near the Adkins Avenue fire which has already chewed up nearly 850 acres.

A state of emergency is now in place for three counties. More than 1,100 homes have already been evacuated.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called the larger Bertha Swamp Road fire "a big boy," at a news conference in Panama City on Sunday afternoon.

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"It’s moving very quickly," he said.


Credit: Florida Forest Service/Twitter

Crews from Central Florida are there to help. They were deployed on Saturday to go to the Panhandle. 

Officials say dead vegetation and trees left behind from Hurricane Michael along with some gusty winds have made fighting the fires difficult. Hurricane Michael in 2018 left behind 72 million tons of destroyed trees that have provided fuel for the Bay County wildfires, according to the Florida Forest Service. The hurricane was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in the U.S.

Credit: Florida Forest Service/Twitter

On Sunday, a third fire developed, forcing the evacuation of a 120-bed, state-operated nursing home in Panama City. Public transit was being used to move the residents at the Clifford Chester Sims State Veterans’ Nursing Home. Buses also were on standby in case the 1,300 inmates at the nearby Bay County Jail needed to be evacuated to other facilities.

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Local authorities say they don’t know when residents will be able to return to their homes. The county opened a shelter at the Bay County Fairgrounds for displaced residents.

"I know there has been frustration with people not being able to get back into their homes," said Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford. "But we have had things that have popped up on a minute’s notice and really caused problems. As soon as we can, we will let people go back."

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